Archive for October, 2010

Need to Know?

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

“Everyone who (fill in the blank) needs to read my book!”

It may be true, and often is. Unfortunately, this statement is also a signal that the writer (or even the publisher) is probably headed for grief. I have seen it over and over again.

I’m sure you’ve heard consultants, including me, say that you should identify a group of people who share a need for the information you have, or whose emotional needs will be fulfilled by the story you want to tell before you publish your book. If that’s true, what’s the problem with our first sentence then?

[If you would answer that in the comments section, before you go on, we’ll all learn more from each other . . . Don’t be worried about getting a different answer than the one I’m about to give. There aren’t any wrong answers here.]
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My answer:
The most common reason that our first statement signals trouble ahead is that it doesn’t look at what the reader sees as his or her needs, but at what an outsider sees as the problem and the answer.

There’s often a very large gap between what an objective outsider sees going wrong and what the person in the middle of the issue thinks the problem is. Sometimes we’re too emotionally invested in a position or approach to see the situation clearly. Sometimes we’re too busy to look for the roots of the problem, as we frantically try to deal with the symptoms. And there are other reasons why insiders may see the problems and their needs differently than you do.

Whatever the reason, the successful author and publisher needs to think about not what the reader should want, but what the reader does want to know. Once you’ve drawn them in, then you can continue on to show them a more comprehensive solution, but you must first offer the bait that will set the hook.